A BIG BLACK EYE WITH A SLIVER OF MOON IN IT STARED AT ME. It never blinked, but I did—until the head that housed that eye rose higher. I glowered at the seabird hovering over me, threatening to peck out my eyes. “Take them and Sha curse you!” I swore, blinking away the sting of saltwater that trickled down his bill. I watched the albatross as he clacked his razor beak and swaggered the length of my Carapace. Yes, I was still inside my Carapace, floating on ocean waves, like an upside down sea turtle without flippers. At least a turtle can swim.
I had surfaced onto a calm sea—what sea I didn’t know—but remembered the basics. I was Nadirian, and before sleeping undersea, I’d transferred the memories of my fifty past lives to Toby, all but for our childhood and his last words to me. “Sha be with you, Trinidad.”
I swallowed against the tightness in my throat. I didn’t know which hurt worse, forgetting my fifty lives or my brother forgetting me.
Thinking of Toby, I didn’t hear the surf crash or see a shadow form into a pier. When a bottle fell from the sky and smacked the bird’s back, he honked and flapped away. I closed eyes, heard voices, smelled the sweat of humans.
The trilling sound of an ancient bone flute filled the air. Sand swirled around my body, glossing my hair, polishing my skin to a pearly sheen. Golden light entered my Lifecollar—a permanent necklace imprinting my chest of fifty coin-sized images, each surrounded by a gleaming ouroboros. Instantly, my bones strengthened, muscles firmed, skin smoothed.
After the wind died, my Lifecollar dulled to gilded shadows of bioglyphs adorning my chest like an Egyptian collar. I plumped hair, resplendent and auburn red, and inspected my newly buffed body—a teenager again—but flinched the moment my hands met the head wound. My veins were still scarlet, and on the back of my hand, my powerglyph—a cartouche of an eye, mouth, and lion—had reddened.
The Blessing didn’t heal. I need Days. Now.
As I lay helpless on Brady, something grotesque topped the sand dunes.
They marched as ghostly giants, arms and legs twice the length of humans, skin mottled like the dead. My heart pounded, vision blurred as the four…no, two wraiths drew closer under the pier. My Nadirian eyes had no trouble seeing them in the dark—peeled flesh at their throats exposed steel gears and bruised skin surrounded lidless eyes within fist-sized sockets. Purple veins bulged within white eyeballs and mirrored irises, like copper discs, robotically jerked, searching the shore.
Were they human or machine?